Four days before the anniversary of the birth of American democracy, 2012 College graduate Marwa Ibrahim was preparing to protest in the name of her own country’s democracy.
At 3 p.m. on June 30, Ibrahim, who is currently living and working in Cairo, joined a march near her house to the Egyptian president’s palace on foot.
At first, she was one of a few dozen people marching on President Mohamed Morsi’s palace that day. But as she continued moving towards the palace, she was joined by other Egyptians who were protesting Morsi’s misappropriation of religion for power.
“We passed several apartment buildings where elderly residents were cheering us on from their balconies,” Ibrahim said in an email, “lowering down water bottles in little baskets to help us quench our thirst in the summer heat.”
And nearly two hours later, when she arrived at President Mohamed Morsi’s palace, there were several hundred protesters marching with her, and millions more already in the streets.
“[There was] an endless wave of protesters waving Egyptian flags,” she said. “I could no longer see the end or the beginning of the protest.”
Three days later, the military deposed Morsi — the first democratically elected president of Egypt — from his office as the country’s leader.
Since June 28, protesters across Egypt have been demanding for Morsi’s resignation. After he was removed from office on July 3, talks between interim government officials and Muslim Brotherhood leaders have tried to smooth the transition towards the creation of a new government.
Many young Egyptians, like Ibrahim and rising College junior Diana Gonimah, a former reporter for the Daily Pennsylvanian, have seen the military’s action as the culmination of the people’s will as Egypt’s “second revolution.”
However, others — like the Brotherhood, which supports Morsi’s presidency — have decried this as a “military coup” against the established government.
After arrest warrants were issued for 10 leaders of the Brotherhood on Wednesday, spokesman for the Brotherhood Gehad El-Haddad told Fox News that the country was in a “police state.”
Additionally, some are afraid that if the “coup” continues, the leaders of the Brotherhood would be forced into hiding.
“If the Egyptians accept the military coup and its moves — which I’m sure proud and free Egyptians wouldn’t — the Muslim Brotherhood might have to go underground again, as it would face more oppressive acts,” Mostafa al-Khatib, editor of the Justice and Development newspaper — the mouthpiece of the Brotherhood — told BBC News.
But Ibrahim disagrees with the notion that this is a coup, and insists that this was a revolution of the people’s will.
“By calling this a military coup you ignore that estimates of 33 million Egyptians were on the streets calling for the downfall of Morsi’s regime and you insist on a tailor made paradigm of military-Islamist turf wars in the region,” Ibrahim said.
“The Egyptian people are demanding a civil, democratic state and protested against what was quickly exposed as the misappropriation of religion for power,” she added.
Getting to safety
Amid this atmosphere of political unrest, the U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for Egypt on July 3 — the day Morsi was ousted from power — warning “citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of continuing political and social unrest.”
Five days later, 51 people were killed and over 300 more were injured at a clash between soldiers and those who were protesting Morsi’s removal from power.
But as of July 5, there were no current Penn employees or students in Egypt that were registered with the Global Activities Registry, Director for International Risk Management Jaime Molyneux said.
The only employee registered for travel in Egypt had left the country on Friday on a commercial flight, after the University arranged for him to take “secure transportation” to the airport.
However, Molyneux noted that registration in the GAR would not account for all of the Penn affiliates who were in Egypt at the time because employees and students on programs not sponsored by Penn are not required to register when traveling.
She noted in particular a Penn student who was evacuated from Egypt through the program she was with but who was not registered with G.A.R.
“We would never leave anyone stranded,” Molyneux said, “[but this] is a really good reminder of how important travel safety is … for making sure travelers have assistance on the ground.”
Penn Abroad Director Barbara Gorka said in an email that “while Penn Abroad has not made a decision yet for [study abroad to Egypt in] fall 2013, we’re working with the students to find alternatives” to studying abroad there.
Currently, there are three students registered to study abroad in Egypt in the fall, but Gorka added that some of the programs partnered with Penn “have agreed to accept late applicants, and we’re working with students individually to find the available options that make most sense for them academically.”
Despite the fact that students must register with GAR for Penn affiliated study abroad programs, Molyneux stressed the importance of employee registration with GAR — even though it’s not required for them to do so — because the University would be able to help in a situation like this.
“The first thing I do [when something like this happens] is go into the Global Activities Registrar … reaching out immediately to travelers to see if they are okay,” she said.
As of Friday, Molyneux was still “actively looking to see if others need assistance.”
This article has been updated to clarify that the protesters were rallying against Morsi’s misappropriation of religion for power, and not Islam itself.Comments powered by Disqus
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